Community Update: HR director appointment offers potential for systems modernization, Public involvement meeting for East Grand Avenue reconstruction, Citizen input needed for County Open Spaces Plan Update



Public involvement meeting for Grand Avenue reconstruction project

On behalf of City leadership, I heartily invite area residents to participate in a public involvement meeting regarding ambitious reconstruction projects along East Grand Avenue. The meeting takes place next Tuesday, February 13, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at City Hall, 444 West Grand Avenue.  

This informal open house is designed to facilitate dialogue and individual questions and comments about two project sites:

  • East Grand Avenue from the Grand Avenue Bridge to 8th Street South
  • 7th Street South from East Grand Avenue to Oak Street.

City officials, our design consultant and real estate acquisition/appraisal representatives will be on hand for a brief presentation beginning at 5:30 p.m., and to share project information, construction schedule and acquisition/assessment of adjacent real estate. Meeting attendees will also be able to view exhibits of the project design, traffic routing and right-of-way impacts to nearby properties.

The projects are currently in the final design phase, with design completion scheduled for this August. Construction is scheduled for 2019.

I strongly encourage all to attend this meeting. If you cannot attend or would like additional information, feel free to call 715-421-8251, or e-mail 

We look forward to talking with you!

Citizen input needed for County Open Spaces Plan Update

Wood County Parks and Forestry Department is giving you an opportunity to share your input on the future of outdoor recreation opportunities in our community.

The department is working with County Planning and Zoning to update the 2011 Wood County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Plan.  This comprehensive study of public and private outdoor recreation opportunities in Wood County emphasizes the role the County is expected to play in meeting those demands.

How can you help? By taking a survey, regarding your current use of parks and forestry amenities, and what you might desire in terms of future offerings. This survey, along with future public comment sessions, will help to determine recommendations detailed in the final plan. For a hard copy of the survey, you can call 715-421-8422.

Your contribution to this update can have a real-world impact on our local community. In order to qualify for various Department of Natural Resources outdoor recreation grants, Wood County is required to have an up-to-date plan adopted by the County Board of Supervisors. Projects completed since the 2011 update include:

  • Construction of the Red Sands Beach Pavilion;
  • Completion of the Lake Wazeecha dredge project; and
  • Upgrades to numerous buildings.

Because these projects were identified in the 2011 plan, many of them were grant funded.

So, do your part to help create an enhanced quality of life for fellow residents and visitors alike. Take a few moments to complete the Wood County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Plan survey!

New HR director appointment offers potential for systems innovations

When the position of Human Resources Director became vacant last summer, we as City leaders took some time to analyze this important role to determine what we really wanted in terms of service to City employees and service to prospective new-hires. After a search and screening process, I had the honor of presenting for approval at the January 16 Common Council meeting Dawn Urban as the new Human Resources Director for the City of Wisconsin Rapids.  Dawn began work on Monday, January 22.

Dawn comes to us with a degree in Business Administration and certification in Human Resources. Dawn previously worked in HR at Marshfield Clinic Information Systems(MCIS), which develops IT software for the healthcare provider. We feel that this background uniquely qualifies Dawn to play an important role in assessing, attracting and retaining employees who bring energy and new ideas to the work of City governance and service delivery.

We have long felt that our Finance and HR functions, in particular, need to be modernized to decrease the amount of time required to complete tasks, reduce potential for errors and offer a more inviting, user friendly hiring process. The timing is right to institute systems and procedures that will result in more efficient use of tax dollars, maximize the valuable time of our administrators, and optimize interdepartmental communications and collaboration, all for the benefit of our citizens.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Did you know City sidewalks must be cleared of snow AND ice?


Did you know City sidewalks must be cleared of snow and ice?

The sporadic snowfalls & thaw events we receive affirms that, “Well … it is Wisconsin!” It also reminds us that, as City residents, we must help ensure the safety of our fellow citizens by doing our best to keep public walkways free of snow and ice.

Our City Ordinance 6.15 states: “It shall be the property owner’s duty to remove snow and ice from sidewalks that are located in the street right-of-way which abuts an owner’s property within 24 hours from the end of each weather event. A weather event shall mean: any weather condition that causes a sidewalk to be partially or fully covered in snow or ice regardless of depth.  It’s also unlawful to push or deposit snow from their personal driveway or parking lot into public streets or alleys.”  

The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department is asking for residents to help keep ice and snow cleared around fire-hydrants.

You can also do your part to help your neighbors by clearing snow and ice away from a fire-hydrant near your property incase a fire would occur in your neighborhood.

Also, through the winter season, Public Works staff will be working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department to monitor streets and focus on keeping the major roads in reasonable winter driving conditions.  If a Snow Emergency takes place you can find information on our City website, Facebook page and Community Media sites.

Let each of us do our part by keeping our roads in safe winter driving conditions and you can do the same with our walkways to help make this winter as danger-free as possible for all.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Honor crossing guards during Recognition Week, January 22-26, McMillan solar installation already paying dividends



Honor crossing guards during Recognition Week, January 22-26

As Mayor, I am proud to, once again, call on all or citizens to carve out time to honor those responsible for ensuring safe passage for some of our most precious citizens: our children. Adult School Crossing Guard Recognition Week takes place January 22-26.

These dedicated, caring and thoughtful individuals deserve appreciation from parents, neighbors, law enforcement officials and motorists. They navigate traffic and inclement weather to guide young people, and help to teach them safe pedestrian behaviors – lessons that will continue to impact their lives as they grow older.

Parents, teachers, students and school administrators can draw from these special-activity ideas to recognize the adults who serve as crossing guards in our area. Electronic versions of the 2017 Crossing Guard Recognition poster also are available for local printing, here.

Please use Adult School Crossing Guard Recognition Week as your opportunity to express your gratitude for the individuals who help keep our young ones safe, to and from school.

McMillan solar installation already paying dividends


McMillan Memorial Library Director Andy Barnett has been very involved in the solar initiative at the library.

Last summer, McMillan Memorial Library displayed leadership in pursuing a cost-efficient future fueled by sustainable energy, with the installation of roof the largest solar power production unit in central Wisconsin. The library’s Board partnered with locally owned Viking Electric to install the 235 kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar array.

From the time the array went active through the end of the year, it produced approximately 55,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), with 10,000 kWhs being used by the community. Even in the relatively “dark” months of November (28 percent) and December (11 percent), the array produced a significant amount of the electricity the library uses.

McMillan Library purchases the power at a reduced rate from Viking Electric, which sells any power not consumed by the library to Wisconsin Rapids Water Works & Lighting (WWLC) for community use. Especially on sunny days, and on Sundays when the library is closed, this renewable energy replaces fossil-fuel-based electricity the utility would otherwise purchase. A financial analysis performed by WWLC staff indicates that this investment can save McMillan Library more than $300,000 in operational costs.

Viking Electric funded 70 percent of the cost and owns the solar array for the first six years and benefits from various tax credits. Once the tax credits are expired, McMillan will purchase the project or about 30 percent of the original cost, which the library plans to finance through an ongoing fundraising campaign. A generous donor has pledged to match all contributions, so it the library is already more than half the way to funding the eventual purchase of the project.

As the first and only solar installation on a City building, the McMillan Memorial Library demonstrates the power of renewable energy, providing an educational opportunity while saving taxpayer dollars.

ICYMI: 17 Best of 2017! Video here; full list here.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: 17 for ’17 – Highlights of Our City’s Progress, Community Survey is open – share your opinion



17 for ’17 – Highlights of Our City’s Change, Progress

The year 2017 saw the City of Wisconsin Rapids, its citizens, and its business and philanthropic communities take strides forward, closer to our vision of a diverse, thriving and welcoming area that offers people of all ages the a more impressive place to call ‘home’. These achievements top the list of the many that our City realized last year.

Check out the video below to find see the top 17 achievements in 2017 along with a more in-depth look into the projects available to read, here.

Community Survey is open – share your opinion

What’s important to you? What are your hopes and concerns for our community?

Share your opinion to help shape our future.

In 2012, Incourage led the first ever Community Survey to help better understand the hopes and concerns of our residents, and to identify priorities for our community. Now, with citizen engagement and active interest in community revitalization on the upswing, Incourage has partnered with nationally recognized researchers to again conduct the survey to see what has changed.

Take the survey here. Paper copies are also available at Incourage’s office at 478 East Grand Avenue, or by calling 715-423-3863.

I encourage residents of all ages throughout the south Wood County area to take 10 minutes to express their thoughts by completing the Community Survey. Survey deadline is Monday, January 15.

Share your opinion … and help shape our future.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Holiday Greetings; Share favorite Holiday light displays



Holiday Greetings

Once again, we approach that time of year when we strengthen and renew cherished ties with family, neighbors and friends. As we share the joy of glad tidings, we also experience the sense of fulfillment that comes from heartfelt generosity.

Click on the image to learn more about the plans for an Aquatic Center in Wisconsin Rapids.

Click on the image above to make your donation for a new Aquatic Center in Wisconsin Rapids.

 Our appreciation for the season grows when we consider the many voluntary gifts of time, caring and support that selfless individuals render to build and strengthen our community throughout the year.After a year in which the active engagement of local residents has helped us to make tremendous strides in revitalizing our community, I urge you to remain involved. One outstanding way to contribute to the ongoing spirit of support is by making a tax-deductible investment in your community – namely, the Wisconsin Rapids Aquatic Center. Buoyed by the impact of each and every donation, we can make the dream of a world-class, regional facility a reality in 2019.

I am proud of the culture of giving that the City of Wisconsin Rapids has always reflected. As we nurture and sustain that tradition, I wish for each one of you a festive and cheerful holiday season.

Mark and find your favorite holiday lighting displays around the area with our SeeClickFix App. Click on the image to download the App, or use this link:

And if you’re looking for holiday lighting displays around town this holiday season, download the SeeClickFix app and check out the Rapids Pride section to locate and share your favorite holiday light displays.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Zoning Code rewrite progressing toward council consideration; Youth Council Kicks off it’s year with Zoo Project



Youth Council kicks off school year with focus on Zoo Master Plan

The Mayor’s Youth Council kicked off its 2017-18 year by welcoming new members, and by learning about the Municipal Zoo Master Plan project and what they can do to get involved.

This fall, Youth Council members toured the zoo, gathering information and discussed master plan details with the Community Development Department, leading the project. Youth Council members will work with parents and area youth to develop a specific project with the zoo, and/or choose one of the master plan improvement ideas as the focal point for their efforts.

The goal for the Zoo Master Plan is to provide a long-term vision for the facility, complete with objectives related to design, budgeting and implementation phases.

Community Development began by performing an analysis to identify the zoo’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Issues included some dated features and deficiencies in walking path flow and some water features.

Encouragingly, this analysis also pinpointed enhancement opportunities to increase use of the Oak Grove picnic area, seek a signature/feature exhibit, activate the entrance area (promenade idea, food carts, etc.), and add to the “silo” exhibit where the lemurs typically are.

We plan to continue gathering information from various age groups, particularly our youth, over the next couple of months. That input will then be incorporated into the final master plan.

On a personal note, I look forward to the Mayor’s Youth Council bringing the same energy and creativity to this effort as they have to such initiatives as neighborhood beautification and Aquatic Center fundraising.

Zoning Code rewrite progressing toward council consideration

The City of Wisconsin Rapids initiative continues apace to draft a new code to guide growth and development in a manner that reflects zoning and planning best practices. After two years of dialogue and valuable input among members of the Planning Commission and residents, we have developed consensus on the concerns and needs of our citizens that need to be addressed in the rewrite.

The initial draft of the zoning map has been presented to the Plan Commission for review and comment. The Planning & Zoning Commission is expected to continue reviewing key parts of the draft code throughout this month.

When completed, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable. It will be integrated into other land-use regulations as outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and be internally consistent, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Graphics and drawings will be used to increase reader comprehension.

Adding to our momentum is the fact that the City’s Comprehensive Plan update is moving in lockstep with the zoning rewrite. The draft, a Long-range Plan Map was also submitted for initial review by the Commission and will come back in November. If all goes according to plan, the draft would be presented to the Common Council for initial feedback sometime during January 2018, with public hearings to follow.

The purpose of the comprehensive plan is to provide a 20-year vision and rational basis for local land use and economic development decisions. This incorporates such priorities as housing; transportation; utilities and community facilities; and agricultural, natural and cultural resources.

As we continue along the path to a zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan that meet the needs of a growing and dynamic community, we encourage you to stay informed, by contacting Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or at Or visit for more information on the process!

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Celebrate the spirit of the season at City Hall, Spread holiday cheer as a volunteer



Celebrate the spirit of the season with us at City Hall

Glad tidings and cheer will mark the evening of Thursday, December 14, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. That’s when we’ll welcome local residents to join us in celebrating the season, and the work of our City officials and staff, at our annual City Hall Holiday Open House, in our Lobby at 444 W. Grand Avenue.

You’ll experience “season’s greetings”-style entertainment from the Lincoln High School Chamber Singers. And for younger ones, Santa Claus will be on hand to help keep spirits bright.

Bring a cash, food or toy donation, and your young ones will be able to have a free photo with Santa. All donations will benefit the food pantry, The Family Center, Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club and the Firefighters Toy Drive.

In addition, you can tour City Hall, visit City departments, and learn more about how we serve you and fellow citizens throughout the year.

For more information, call 715-421-8216, or email

I look forward to seeing you!

2018 Winter Recreation Guide now available

The 2018 Winter Parks and Recreation Guide is now available! Registration opens December 15th. Check out the guide here!

Spread holiday cheer as a volunteer

Local citizens looking for ways to “give back” to their community this holiday season can find golden opportunities through the United Way of Inner Wisconsin Volunteer Center.

Graphic submitted by United Way of Inner Wisconsin – Please click on the photo to see the Holiday volunteer opportunities.

The Volunteer Center offers a varied selection of seasonal volunteer opportunities – from serving meals or caring for homeless pets, to making crafts for shut-ins or visiting seniors who would welcome a friendly face.

Photo submitted by United Way of Inner Wisconsin

I strongly encourage you to take time right now to browse the Center’s online database of holiday volunteer needs. You can also call 715-421-0390 or email

And, don’t forget there are other ways to spread cheer to your fellow residents. You can also help support the work of the Volunteer Center with a year-end financial donation to United Way of Inner Wisconsin, here

Let us do our share to help ensure “Happy Holidays” for all!

Thank you for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink